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Using miniBB in a network accessed by hand crank/solar powered computers and cellphones

Author sarahe
#1 | Posted: 7 Feb 2012 07:56 
Hi there,

I am working on building out a wireless communications network in a remote part of a country where there are not even any roads.
The main goals are to improve access to health information, conduct elections and even banking. We are under contract by the government to set all of this up soon and we were looking for a static communications system and MiniBB was suggested to me by a friend who has used it in the past.

The network will be very "slow" so minibb certainly meets our requirements of being low bandwidth. But we need to know a few other things:

1. Does the base software or the "premium addons" phone home? We understand this is a touchy subject for you to answer but we really do not want anything that connects OUT of our intranet and on to the internet.

2. Is there any way to make the software use even LESS bandwidth/CPU/memory? We would prefer as few scripts, images, styling as possible. This network of ours will primarily be accessed by hand crank/solar powered computers and cell phones.

I'm very grateful for any answers that you can provide me with in this part of the process.

Author Paul
Lead Developer
#2 | Posted: 7 Feb 2012 12:27 | Edited by: Paul 
Hello, and thanks for your interest.

1. I'm not quite sure what is meant there. Phone home? If you mean, that if there is any part of code which provides extra connections to 3rd party domains (incl., except for the primary domain where it's installed on, the answer is definitely "NO".

It doesn't load something from 3rd party websites, it doesn't contain stats or banners or external JavaScript code/apps, the same I can tell about all add-ons. It's one of the reasons I've programmed miniBB, so it doesn't contain any viral codes (at the same time mostly every free software will contain them). It loads all data from the local domain only.

2. You can optimize templates and CSS, removing all newlines and spare spaces; on the server itself, you can install Zend optimizer/Zend cache - but honestly, it won't bring lots of breathing. May be you can save about 5-10% of traffic with that, and not quite a lot of resources.

minBB's code to output is extra-clean already, it's coded manually in a plain text editor, which doesn't add anything extra-specific, so it's simply nothing to clean from. I believe that even using solar-powered computers means much more energy and speed involved that it was in Modems era. And I was successfully using miniBB even sitting on a slow-connection modem of 14,6 Kbps.

Considering bandwidth issues - viewing properties of any page miniBB outputs, you can see that even the first page (most heavily loaded) doesn't go beyond the size of 100 Kb. It most cases, it's even less (60-70 Kb). It's an average JPEG quality picture size. If you check the upcoming Mobile interface, it will take even less.

Let us know about your progress :)

Author kuopassa
#3 | Posted: 11 Feb 2012 06:53 
This is very fascinating topic. :-)

I suggest that the original poster asks for someone skilled with understanding of coding and designing etc. to optimize the forum using for example GTmetrix. For example this theme's homepage, that I made for miniBB, is according to GTmetrix a total of 16 KB's. If image files and CSS file is stripped off, it's just 2.2 KB's. (Gzipped content.)

It's possible to make the forum templates to not have any image files, to not have any CSS files and thus reducing the amount of HTTP queries. If the forum has some CSS files, they can be compressed. Same goes for JS and image files. Content can be compressed also with server side using gzip, but that increases server load, although on the plus side it reduces bandwidth.

Author tom322
#4 | Posted: 14 Feb 2012 07:17 
I think miniBB is optimized very well right from the box :

For example this theme's homepage, that I made for miniBB, is according to GTmetrix a total of 16 KB's.

You still need to work on W3C validation, some simple things can be quickly corrected ;).

Author kuopassa
#5 | Posted: 17 Feb 2012 04:58 
Thanks, tom322. That thingy has now been fixed. Just a missing space in one of the templates. :-)

Author sarahe
#6 | Posted: 18 Feb 2012 09:47 | Edited by: sarahe 
I wanted to reply to say thanks! We really appreciate the valuable information that you have all shared with us.

Glad to hear that minibb is exactly what we are looking for then. We plan to deploy it in at least three different areas for our own staff and the users of our network.

We are very interested in the mobile interface as well. I have been informed that gzip will not be possible with our servers but that minibb should not be a huge problem anyways so long as we build out an ultra-lightweight theme of virtually no images or styling files. I will push for gzip however as I do believe that overtime the bandwidth demands will only increase with the amount of users we will have joining the network.

The network will be setup to not provide real internet access. This network will server to connect various villages together with the internet if that makes any sense. People on the internet will be able to communicate and transfer money to people who live in these remote areas. This will be a huge help to those who left their families behind to find work elsewhere but must physically travel back to their village to delivery cash where people then purchase things like fuel and cooking oil. A local system (handled by Namibians) of cash distribution (remittance) will be in place before we ever break ground. What they lack is the communication/IT system

If you connect to the network (Called Hot Springs) then you may communicate with those outside on the internet but not able to visit any other websites than what we have made available. The big issue again is bandwidth of the network. We would love the idea of more content being freely added but it is just not physically possible.

The only other services we plan to add are multi language healthcare libraries. These are going to be mostly comprised of the freely available ebooks like Where There Is No Doctor. These books feature drawings and simple language explanations of medical care that are either simple to perform on your own or easy enough to purchase.

We thought about email but we figured that a "bulletin board system" like this would be even easier for some people to communicate with their children/parents who live and work in regions far away from them.

While we do not actively provide any resources or development aid to our users we are going to begin later this year a wireless network that is funded by both church, private and corporate donations and contributions of states. A lot of people work in the capital city

If that sounds fancy to you, it really isn't so that's why I never mentioned any of this before. We have no money for our own salaries but the cost of traveling there alone will be immense for our team. Then we must ship in the equipment and pay for room and board. We have all the money we can use for now and our budgets are set. We are now just testing the hardware and then plan to roll it out in a live demonstration here before shipping everything out.

Thanks again for your wonderfully efficient software and all the help you and the community here have given.

Author sarahe
#7 | Posted: 18 Feb 2012 10:14 
I hope you do not mind me "double-posting" but my last big post was lost once already and I have yet another question.
Is it possible to turn off certain kinds of "BBCODES" like the image and link ones. People will not be able to access the world wide web and we certainly do not want people linking to images within their posts under any circumstances.

Author kuopassa
#8 | Posted: 19 Feb 2012 11:49 | Edited by: kuopassa 
I think it should be possible by removing a few lines of code from the file bb_codes.php. You might want to add an extra layer of security by coding (or hiring Paul to do it, hehe) some function that checks whether the posted message/topic has URL's for external resources, like images.

Author Paul
Lead Developer
#9 | Posted: 20 Feb 2012 12:23 
Is it possible to turn off certain kinds of "BBCODES" like the image and link ones

It's very possible, also as I think nothing is impossible in coding ;)

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